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King v. Roberts

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 19, 2014

STEPHEN R. KING, Plaintiff,
v.
DON ROBERTS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

GREGORY M. SLEET, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On February 8, 2010, plaintiff Stephen R. King ("King") filed a Complaint against remaining defendants former Deputy Attorney General Don Roberts ("Roberts"), the Town of Middletown ("Middletown"), Middletown Police Department ("Police Department"), and Detective Thomas Finch ("Finch").[1] (D.I. 2.) King initially appeared pro se. On June 2, 2010, King filed an Amended Complaint alleging violations of his Fourth and Fifth Amendment Rights and asserting claims of malicious prosecution, in violation of 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, and defamation in violation of Delaware common law. (D.I. 7.) On February 5, 2013, counsel for King entered his appearance. (D.I. 48.) On March 8, 2013, Roberts filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (D.I. 57.) The court granted-in-part and denied-in-part Roberts' motion on May 20, 2013. (D.I. 74.) The court's Order dismissed the claims raised against Roberts in his official capacity based on Eleventh Amendment immunity and dismissed the individual capacity claims arising from his advocative conduct based on absolute immunity. (D.I. 74.) Following completion of discovery, on October 31, 2013, Roberts filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (D.I. 100.) On November 1, 2013, Middletown, the Police Department, and Finch (collectively "the Middletown Defendants") filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (D.I. 104.) For the reasons stated below, the court will grant both Roberts' and the Middletown Defendants' motions for summary judgment.

II. BACKGROUND

On December 31, 2007, the Police Department responded to a 911 call made by a juvenile alleging that King had inappropriately touched him. (D.I. 118 at A-1.) King denied the accusation. ( Id. at A-2.)

The juvenile had been staying with King for parts of December 30 and 31, 2007, because his mother was ill. ( Id. at A-1.) King was a licensed clinical social worker and was treating the juvenile. ( Id. at A-2.)

The juvenile told police that King had condoms, lubricant, and sex toys in a drawer next to his bed, along with pornography. ( Id. ) The juvenile further stated that King had marijuana in his residence and that he offered it to the juvenile. ( Id. at A-2.) King denied ever having offered the juvenile marijuana or having smoked in his presence. ( Id. at A-11.)

The juvenile's mother advised the police that her son "has numerous issues and can be manipulative." ( Id. at A-2.)

Subsequently on December 31, 2007, the Police Department obtained and executed a search warrant for King's residence. ( Id. at A-11.) The police found condoms and lubricant in the bedside drawer but did not find any sex toys. ( Id. at A-2.) A printout of a shirtless male was found, though never seized. ( Id. at A-2, A-26.) King acknowledged having adult pornography on his computer but denied having child pornography. ( Id. at A-11.) The police seized computers, hard drives, and a small amount of marijuana from a pipe found in King's residence. ( Id. ) On January 15, 2008, the Middletown Police obtained warrants to examine the computers and hard drives. ( Id. )

On February 7, 2008, Roberts, Finch, and Detective R. Scott Garland viewed image and video files from King's seized computers and hard drives depicting individuals engaged in sexual activity. ( Id. ) Roberts believed that the files depicted minors and therefore constituted illegal child pornography. ( Id. ) Roberts advised Finch to arrest King. (D.I. 113 at A-123.)

On February 8, 2008, King was arrested for twenty counts of unlawfully dealing in material depicting a child engaged in a prohibited act, two counts of unlawful sexual contact in the first degree, one count of possession of marijuana, and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. (D.I. 118 at A-6-9.) That same day, the Police Department issued a news release on King's arrest that contained erroneous factual statements and presented as fact certain details that were still unknown or unverified at the time. (D.I. 118 at A-17-18.)

On March 3, 2008, Roberts obtained an indictment charging King with twenty counts of unlawfully dealing in material depicting a child engaged in a prohibited act and two counts of unlawful sexual contact in the first degree. (D.I. 111 at A-34.) The charges for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia were subsequently nolle prossed. ( Id. at A-35.)

On or about June 2008, Roberts went on a one-month leave of absence. (D.I. 112 at 89.) State prosecutor Richard Andrews ("Andrews") took over the case. ( Id. at A-93.) Andrews was unsure whether the individuals depicted in the images seized from King's computers and hard drives were under the age of eighteen. (D.I. 113 at A-165.) Andrews consulted with pediatric medical expert Dr. Allan DeJong. ( Id. at A-161.) On June 10, 2008, Dr. DeJong stated that he could not conclude with medical certainty that the individuals depicted in the images were under the age of eighteen. (D.I. 111 at A-31; D.I. 113 at A-163.) On June 27, 2008, Andrews advised that the twenty counts of unlawfully dealing in material depicting a child engaged in a prohibited act be nolle prossed for insufficient evidence. (D.I. 111 at A-31; D.I. 113 at A-165.)

On July 2, 2008, Roberts returned from his leave of absence and resumed King's prosecution. (D.I. 111 at A-37-38). Roberts offered King a plea deal to plead guilty to two counts of misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact. (D.I. 111 at A-38.) King rejected the plea deal. ( Id. at A-38, 49.)

On or about September 3, 2008, Roberts obtained an indictment charging King with two counts of felony unlawful sexual contact in the first degree and forty-two counts of obscenity for allegedly showing nude pictures to children. (D.I. 111 at A-50.)

On October 18, 2008, Roberts took a second leave of absence, and Andrews again took over the prosecution. (D.I. 112 at A-104.) On October 31, 2008, Andrews determined that the state could not proceed with the obscenity charges, ...


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